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Press conference

Republicans Dan Caulkins, candidate for state representative, Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti and U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis of Taylorville criticize Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker during a press conference Wednesday at the Macon County Republican Party headquarters. 

DECATUR — Republican leaders on Wednesday said they were "appalled" to learn of Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker's efforts to get property tax breaks on his Chicago home, and contended that he shouldn't be elected as a result of the findings.

Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis of Taylorville and Dan Caulkins, the Republican state representative candidate for the 101st District, criticized Pritzker and rallied support for Gov. Bruce Rauner's re-election campaign during a joint news conference at the Macon County Republican Party headquarters, 445 N. Franklin St. 

"No one, absolutely no one, is above the law," Sanguinetti said. "Not even billionaires running for governor. Illinoisans, please, don't be fooled. Mr. Pritzker is nothing more than another corrupt Chicago politician. A tax cheat."

Rauner has repeatedly attacked Pritzker in debates and public remarks for ripping the toilets out of a home to get a $330,000 property tax break, which Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard recently called a "scheme to defraud taxpayers." Blancahrd's office found that the assessed valuation of a mansion owned by Pritzker was reduced from $6.25 million to just under $1.1 million because the residence was "vacant and uninhabitable" with no working toilets, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. 

Blanchard's review found that the toilets had been removed on Oct. 6, 2015, just 10 days before a scheduled appraisal of the property at the direction of Pritzker's wife for the purpose of allowing the house to be declared uninhabitable. 

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Pritzker has since promised to pay the $330,000 back to the county treasurer and said the confidential report was leaked for political reasons. He has said the governor is trying to distract from his own failures, including the response to a deadly Legionnaires' disease outbreak at a Quincy veterans home that is now under investigation by Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

Seven Republican congressmen, including Davis, asked the U.S. Attorney's Office earlier this month for a full investigation into Pritkzer's tax breaks. 

On Wednesday, Davis said he hopes that the U.S. Attorney's Office is working to initiate an investigation, and said that the calls for it to move forward will not stop. 

"Let this sink in: The Cook County inspector general accused the Democrat gubernatorial candidate in the state of Illinois of committing a 'scheme to defraud' the taxpayers of the same state that he wishes to represent," Davis said. 

"Cook County, let me remind you, is not run by Republicans. Cook County is run by Democrats. This is not a partisan hit-job. This is the truth."

Caulkins, who will face Democrat Jen McMillin of Decatur in the November general election, said if anyone without Prtizker's wealth and influence were to engage in similar tax break efforts, they would be tried and convicted almost immediately. 

"We can't let J.B. Pritzker get away with this," he said. "We need to support our ticket top-to-bottom, we need to get Gov. Rauner re-elected and that's going to turn this state around. I will work hard, I will represent you. But we have to have the governor's office."

In a statement responding to the news conference, Pritzker campaign spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh pointed to the investigation into the Rauner administration's handling of the Legionnaires' outbreak.

“Bruce Rauner is a failed governor with no accomplishments heading into the final weeks of the campaign under a criminal probe for his fatal mismanagement of the Quincy Veterans Home," Abudayyeh said. "While Rauner tries to divide communities and distract from his failures, J.B. is focused on the issues that matter like creating jobs, expanding healthcare, and investing in education."

The investigation, announced last week, includes whether residents, their families and staff were informed of the outbreak in a timely manner. Emails obtained by WBEZ Chicago show officials in Rauner's office opted to hold off from making a public statement in 2015 even after more than a dozen people had become ill. The crisis contributed to 14 deaths over three years. 

Sanguinetti and Davis described the situation as a tragedy, but defended the Rauner administration's response and suggested that the investigation might be politically motivated. 

"The governor has acted with precision, with caution," Sanguinetti said. "... We have to also take into consideration that those veterans, we were concerned about moving them immediately.

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"We wanted to make sure that we had each and every solution in front of us before making a determination of a new home."

Sanguinetti also criticized Davis' Democratic opponent in the 13th Congressional District, Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, for not publicly speaking out against Pritzker's tax breaks. 

"Really, this does not have to do with Republicans or Democrats," Sanguinetti said. "It has to do with fundamental fairness and calling out politicians that are in it for the wrong, corrupt reasons. So we need to re-elect Rodney Davis and others like him so we have more elected officials in office that will hold corrupt politicians accountable."

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Emma Brown, Londrigan's campaign manager, responded in a statement that Davis was trying to distract from his voting record and criticized what she said was a "massive tax handout" he gave to drug companies that donated to his campaign. 

“This is the third time in the last week that Rodney Davis and his allies have launched this kind of partisan broadside to distract voters from Davis' record of gutting protections for people with pre-existing conditions and limiting access to affordable healthcare," she said. "It's obvious Congressman Davis likes to focus on anything but his record as a career politician in Washington, D.C."

The Associated Press contributed to this. 


Read our 'Herald & Review Politics' column

Read our 'Herald & Review Politics' column

Herald & Review Politics is a blog by reporters Tom Lisi and Ryan Voyles exploring Central Illinois government and political issues. Have an idea for them to pursue? Email HRNews@herald-review.com

 

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Contact Jaylyn Cook at (217) 421-7980. Follow him on Twitter: @jaylyn_HR

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Public Safety Reporter

Public safety reporter for the Herald & Review.

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